I´m sitting next to Florian Schneider, who is driving an electric version of the classic Volkswagen Beetle. ´I´ve kept the original sound, even though it´s artificial, there is no engine producing it´. He is visibly excited and can barely keep his eyes on the road. ´In a way it doesn´t even have an engine. It is a machine, it is a device, but it doesn´t have an engine, just like Kraftwerk´. I look at him, confused, and suddenly I want to tell him he is dead, and that I´m not supposed to be here. Maybe that´s the reason David Bowie and Pablo Picasso are playing stupid mind games on the backseat.
I open my mouth but before I can say anything Florian continues: ´We are driving on the German highway, not invented by but certainly adopted by Adolf Hitler to counter, through its construction, mass unemployment and boost German pride. It´s not a secret, just something actively and willingly ignored. One of the many pieces of history covered by dust, or rather, kept out of sight until hopefully, one day, no one knows or remembers anymore, and for good reason, why would we want to see the positive side of Adolf…?´
´Would anyone even try?´, I ask, actively ignoring whatever is going on behind me (mostly giggling).
´Of course, morons aplenty! There will always be apologists who want to see the positive side of evil! But here´s the problem, look at that old guy in the backseat, an abusive misogynist, also responsible for Guernica, arguably the most powerful piece of anti-war art ever created. What to do with him, what to do with David, who slept with a minor (probably not the only one) and behaved, by all accounts, horribly towards band mates and business partners?´
´I don´t know, we can always pretend there is nothing wrong, that the art is not the artist or, alternatively, just cancel them on moral grounds. Some would even go as far as claiming the art was not that great to begin with, solving the problem before it even arises…´
´Morons, all morons with no eye for beauty and a very primitive idea of morality. It seems that these days people don´t want to be shocked anymore, have no appetite for chaos, dirt and unpredictability. Same as when we started Kraftwerk. We have returned to the 60s, 70s, no one wants to be disturbed, all needs to be predictable and safe, only difference being that in the meantime we switched from analog to digital safety.´
´So what do you suggest?´ For the first I take an active look at Florian and notice how much he enjoys being in the middle of it, in the middle of this sociocultural storm, but also in the middle, or even at the crossroads of nostalgia and futurism, technological progress that comes at a price to the analog reality of living. It makes me realise that Kraftwerk were always more Punk than their sound suggested, closer to the autumn of terror than Germany´s Wirtschaftswunder.
He smiles and slowly takes his hand off the wheel. ´See all of this? It´s not there, not really, one moment it´s future, the next it´s gone. How to solve a paradox? We cannot, all we can do is accept the uncomfortable co-existence. Same as with Hitler´s Autobahn, it is there, and at the same time it´s not. We should not forget or ignore history, but we don´t have to live in it´.